Tag Archives: Newhouse

The Spectrum of Change

 

Previous webpage: Maelstrom as the Flow Changes

 “I wasalmost a sorry witness of such doings, knowing that a little theory and calculation would have saved him ninety per cent of his labor.”
— Nikolai Tesla about Thomas Edison’s exhaustive experimentations.

Access and choices of news, entertainment, and information for the majority of the world’s population has shifted from relative scarcity to surplus, even overload. More than three billion people can now—via desktop, laptop, tablet, or smartphone—access more news, entertainment, and other information than had ever before in human history been printed or broadcast. The ranks of these of people will increase to nearly six billion by the end of this decade because all mobile phones now being manufactured are smartphone models capable of accessing this newfound cornucopia of content.

This epochal shift in readily accessible supply of news, entertainment, and information began four decades ago: no more than a wink in human history yet more than a generation ago in the lives of humans today. The shift occurred so quickly that young adults have not known anything but surplus, yet so slowly that older adults are only beginning to perceive the profound changes it has wrought. This cognitive gap, more difficult to bridge than a mere generation gap, today rends the media industries. The older adults who lead these industries or teach media too often use outdated theories, doctrines, and practices rooted in the waning era of scarcity; yet the younger adults who staff and the students who’ll soon join those industries haven’t yet enough lifetime experience and wisdom to fully formulate new theories, doctrines, and practices that comprehensively explain exactly how these industries must adapt to the dawning era of surplus.

Four decades into the epochal shift, the majority of executives and scholars still don’t understand how this change from scarcity to surplus is radically altering the media environment. Although some of them perceive scarcity’s dusk, but most seem myopic to the remarkable transformations in media theories, doctrines, business models, practices, and products that are dawning from surplus. They instead misperceive New Media merely as electronic distribution platforms the traditional media products, practices, and business models that were conceived in and based upon the scarcities of the Industrial Era: in other words, Mass Media. Failing to perceive and adapt to the epochal change underway, they are leading their industries into obsolescence. Their declining circulations or listenerships or viewerships once adjusted for population growth, and their fading market capitalizations and equity prices without adjustment, all attest their misperception and failure. Many major U.S. media corporations, in tacit admission of failure to adapt, have traditional products’ declining revenues once adjusted for inflation, their products’ been jettisoning their eldest and formerly most robust media sector products, the sector that first directly encountered the epochal switch: their newspapers subsidiaries.

What you’re reading now is a primer about the epochal change underway in media, its many aspects, and what effects causes. This primer is condensed from the first month of the New Media Business postgraduate course that I’ve taught since 2007 at Syracuse University’s S. I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. It’s aimed at anyone who needs help perceiving the full spectrum of media change underway. In it:

  • I’ll outline the basic spectrum of change underway in the media environment (including some aspects or ‘colors’ not easily or normally visible).
  • I’ll delineate that spectrum into ‘color’ categories based upon whether aspects of that ‘color’ primarily affect consumer behavior, production and definition of content, or transaction and distribution of content.
  • I’ll describe why the epochal switch from scarcity to surplus in people’s access and choices of news, entertainment, and other information, has made very many, if not most, of the Industrial Era theories, business models, practices, and products, all colloquially known as Mass Media communications, which have dominated media for centuries, increasingly unsuccessful, archaic, or obsolete.
  • Likewise, I’ll specifically explain why a major effect of the changes underway is that general-interest Mass Media vehicles—such as newspapers, news magazines, and news broadcasts—are failing not only in their legacy forms but also when put online; and conversely why topical or ‘niche’ media in almost all forms are flourishing.
  • Finally, I’ll explain why traditionalists in the media industries need to abandon their nigh alchemical search for a business model that will let their traditional Mass Media doctrines, practices, and products thrive fundamentally unchanged in this new environment. If traditional media companies want to survive, they must embark upon a radical overhaul of their doctrines, practices, business models, products, and industrial infrastructures. Their embarkation is already overdue.

The starting point for all of that is to look beyond the superficial of changes. Let’s start by slaying a pernicious misperception. Virtually all traditional media executives and traditional media academicians mistakenly think that the major change underway in the media environment is that people are switching their consumption habits from ‘analog’ to ‘digital’. These academicians and executives see fewer and fewer consumers reading printed periodicals or listening to over-the-air radio broadcasts or watching over-the-air or cable television video programming, and instead see more and more consumers reading, listening, or viewing news, entertainment, and other information via personal computers, electronic tablets, smartphones. The executives and academicians thus myopically assume that an ‘analog-to-digital’ switch is the greatest change underway; that the greatest, most important, or even most motive change underway in the media environment is that billions of consumers are becoming ‘wired’ or ‘hooked-up’ or going ‘digital first’. Similar misnomers are media ‘convergence’ or ‘multimedia’, terms which nowadays belie an Industrial Era perspective on media.

Although it is true that billions of consumers are now consuming media contents via computerized devices, that change is incidental. Those billions of consumers aren’t switching to use of computerized device because consuming media via computerized devices is easier. The devices’ screens are smaller than most television screens, harder to read than a book or magazine, more expensive and fragile than paper, and require a live connection to the Internet. Besides, most consumers in developed countries had already had books, newspapers, magazines, and radio and television receivers in their homes. Nor are those billions of consumers switching to computerized devices necessarily to obtain multimedia; the vast majority of the contents they consume on these devices is monomedia—a video clip, a song, or a webpage with or without still photos. Nor are those billions switching necessarily because computerized devices necessarily because these computerized devices can provide them with more up-to-date or information while mobile: the vast majority of contents they consumer on these devices is no more up-to-date than a daily newspaper or news broadcast and the majority of usage consumers make of these device is at home or in their office. Billions of consumers aren’t switching their media consumption to computerized devices for the sake of ‘digital’ or ‘wires’ or ‘wireless’ or being ‘digital first’. They are switching their media consumption for an even greater reason: because these devices provide them with so much more news, entertainment, and other information than all the paper ever printed and all the radio and television broadcast ever made can. They switch because New Media not only gives them much more news, entertainment, and other information than traditional media can, but commensurately let’s each of them find a better match of that media content to their own individual mix of needs, interests and tastes. The sheer appeal of that, fulfilled by every-increasing progress of New Media technologies, has fomented the greatest change in the history of media.

Unfortunately, those media executives and media academicians who instead misperceive some sort of ‘analog-to-digital’ switch or being ‘wired’ or ‘hooked-up’ or ‘digital first’ (or even ‘desktop to mobile’) as the greatest, most important, or even most active change underway in the media environment are blinkering, if not blinding themselves, to this greatest change and its panoramic spectrum of effects on the environment. Such simplistic and seductive misperceptions are the worst miscalculations a media executive or academician can make today. Those misperceptions lead them into the grave error of thinking that the New Media are merely ‘digital’ distribution mechanisms that have arisen for their traditional contents and products (i.e., ‘How can we put our newspaper online?’ ‘How can we use Pinterest as part of our broadcast?’ ‘How can we promote our magazine on Twitter?’). This myopia prevents them from seeing the New Media have reshaped the media environment in ways that are alien to traditional media theories, doctrines, practices, and produces; fields in which traditional media are themselves alien and unsuitable for transplantation. Executives and academicians who misperceive this way miss the truly major opportunities and changes underway in this new era.

The switch from ‘analog to digital’ (my catch-all term for all those misperceptions) is but a single hue in a far more colorful, powerful, and complex spectrum of change underway. The world’s media industries are woefully overdue to examine the complete spectrum, which is why most media industries have become, to use another trite term, ‘disrupted’.

Next webpage: The Prism & New Media Chromodynamics

Index of the Rise of Individuated Media webpages

 © 2014

 

Seeking a Professor and Endowed Chair in Journalism Innovation

The S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications seeks a Professor and Chair in Journalism Innovation, a new, endowed position that will help place the school on the cutting edge in teaching, scholarship and inquiry.

The Chair will develop and teach new, innovative courses that will allow students to explore the intersections of journalism and technology and will work collaboratively to develop new content models and new forms of storytelling. The ideal candidate will have a strong interest in product development and emerging media and will pursue research initiatives at Newhouse, across campus and through industry partnerships and alliances.

We value a candidate’s ability to design unique hands-on experiences that allow our students to experiment with new technology and interactive media, while honoring our commitment to quality, ethical journalism.

The Chair is expected to participate in and lead a global conversation exploring and building new models to produce and disseminate information. The chair will also serve as director of a proposed Center for Journalism Innovation and help seek external funding for new initiatives.

Candidates should demonstrate a track record of continuing accomplishment in communications innovation, particularly in methods of content design and production, sharing and delivery, and a portfolio of strong connections in the field across multiple disciplines. They should have an advanced degree or be able to demonstrate equivalent accomplishment in the field.

The Newhouse School encourages candidates to apply who will help us broaden the diversity of our faculty and our students’ experiences. Syracuse University is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.

A review of applications begins this fall, and will continue until the position is filled. Apply online at www.sujobopps.com, job #028438. A cover letter, resume or vitae and names and contact information for four references must be provided online.

Direct questions to Steve Davis, search chair, at jsdavi02@syr.edu.

Savvy Articles About Change or Its Lack in News Media

On July 31st here, I wrote about the need for Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication to produce more practical research to help media industries faced with radical changes and two days ago I reported about commentary my call produced. For reasons I mentioned on the 31st, I didn’t attend the AEJMC annual conference this year, instead following it last week via Twitter (unfortunately, AEJMC doesn’t webcast).

From what I understand from the tweets, the AEJMC conference didn’t produce any fruitful focus on research that might help the industries survive. Some academics respond that research about how to train journalists to write well and report objectively certainly helps those industries. That’s true, but I worry about if there will viable media industries and jobs for those well trained journalists unless those industries can reverse their declines. It’s fine to produce a fine tool, but it’s worthless unless anybody use it.

Nevertheless, from the tweets I saw, there was indeed a sea change at AEJMC this year–the growing primacy of New Media as people’s way to access news and information.  My Newhouse School colleague, Associate Dean Hub Brown described it well.

I’m glad academia is noticing a change that’s been underway for at least half a decade, when the majority of homes in post-industrial countries began using broadband Internet. A world way from AEJMC, Sky News and others in Australia are reporting that the board of directors at Fairfax Media, has ordered a strategic review of the company’s structure and management and a much more aggressive approach to the Internet side of its business because investors have criticized Fairfax’s Internet strategy. There is now talk of building website paywalls, combining print and online managements, and even ceasing to print and going fully digital. Fairfax publishes  The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, The Australian Financial Review, and other newspaper in Australia and in New Zealand it publishes The Dominion Post, The Press, The Sunday Star-Times, and other newspapers.

Last week, Dave Morgan, CEO of Simulmedia, founder of TACODA and Real Media, and the former general counsel and director of New Media ventures at the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association warned that

I know the last thing that local media companies need is another Web-driven disruption in their markets, particularly one that could take a big chunk out of their revenues in the next few years. If local newspaper, yellow pages, radio or local TV companies thought that Google, Yahoo, eBay and craigslist were disruptive, they are now going to face down a competitor that will have an even bigger impact on their businesses than any one of those companies did.

I believe that location-based Web services will take 20% to 25% of the annual revenue out of local media’s current advertising base within four years. Yes, 20% to-25% of their revenue base will be lost by 2014. That spend will be displaced by promotion and marketing fees paid to these new location-based services or applications that run on top of them. To the incumbent companies, these new services will be like craigslist on steroids.

I think he’s right. Read the rest of his warning at MediaPost.

Another savvy article that cuts right through the fog is Robert Niles recent article, The only metric that matters, published in Online Journalism Review:

In the nearly 15 years that I’ve been working online, I’ve watched the most popular metric among Web publishers change from “hits,” to “page views,” to “unique visitors” to “time on site.”

But none of those metrics really matter. I’ve seen sites post phenomenal numbers for each of those categories, and fail. There’s one metric, and only one, that truly matters in determining your websites’s commercial success.

Revenue.

Your visitors can spend hours per month on your website, but a huge “time on site” value by itself won’t entitle you to a dime (see Twitter). I suspect that one reason why various Web metrics fall into and out of favor over the years is that managers talk up or down those metrics based on their website’s individual performance. Someone notices that people are spending more time, on average, on the website, then he or she gets on a panel at a news industry conference and – boom – “time on site” becomes the metric everyone needs to consider.

Like Robert, I’ve seen publishers chase ‘hits’, ‘page views’, ‘unique users’, ‘time on site’, and now ‘engagement’ as false metrics of success. None of those mean a damn unless the content is generating enough revenue to sustain the operation.

A third smart article is Can publishers learn from failure or should we just set the bar lower? written by Kylie Davis, the chief of staff for the Sun-Herald in Sydney, as well as an undergraduate in the Australian Graduate School of Management masters of business administration program at the University of New South Wales.

There is a lot of talk about how newspaper companies are slow to embrace change, that we are laggards when it comes to adopting to new business opportunities and suffer as a result.

But new research from the Australian School of Business takes it one step further, claiming that organisations will often embrace failure and rationalise it into success as a coping mechanism that justifies their behaviour.

Is this what newspapers have been doing?

Ms. Davis has been looking at a study by her university’s Gavin M. Schwarz entitled, the Logic of Deliberate Structural Inertia or, as its the online summary titles it, “Organisational Failure: How Lousy Results Become Optimal Outcomes”. She says that “some businesses suffer from ‘deliberate structural inertia’ where organisations prefer not to change their tried-and-true methods.”

Newspaper companies are full of enthusiastic proponents of new technology — staff who are hungry to embrace the new digital world and work on strategies to bring the dollars in and delight our readers and advertisers and who can see it’s potential. But the word from the top is to “wait”.

The research says “people are limited in their capacity to process information. Consequently they adopt spontaneous strategies to simplify complex problems and this allows failure to be rationally defended.”

Too many newspaper companies have done this over the past 10 years, claiming that the changes in mobile phone and online readers were niches that would never take off enough to justify us altering what and how we deliver content. They’ve preferred to wait until nimbler competitors proved that there really was a market there — and by the time we’ve tried to enter, the horse has bolted.

Savvy stuff for anyone trying to understand the failure to adapt by post-industrial countries’ daily newspaper industries. Whenever I hear a newspaper editor says, ‘Because other media can provide news to people more immediately than we can in print, newspapers’ future will be as a provider of analysis about the news rather than the news itself,’ I see someone who is redefining failure as success. There is no reason why newspapers online cannot provide news as immediately to people as other media can. But not if the editor is going to resist changing his traditional practices.

Ms. Davis article is freely available at the International News Marketing Association’s website.

Singaporean TV News Coverage


The Singapore Press Holdings Foundation each year hosts a media lecture in the Drama Centre of the National Library. This year’s theme was Media in Transition: Social & Economic Impact. I gave the lecture. Here is TV news coverage of that speech, delivered on July 14, 2010. To see the entire lecture.

Digital Media Management Syllabus

For the next three weeks, I’ll be lecturing on Digital Media Management at the Sol Plaatje Institute for Media Leadership, at Rhodes University‘s School of Journalism and Media Studies, in Grahamstown, Eastern Cape, South Africa. These lectures will be based upon the New Media Business graduate school course that I teach at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, in the United States.

Here is the syllabus for these lectures:

Continue reading Digital Media Management Syllabus

Training Journalists for the 21st Century

Ryan Sholin guest-lecturing in my New Media Business class at Syracuse University's S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications
Ryan Scholin guest-lecturing in my New Media Business class at Syracuse University's S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communicatinos

My biweekly Digital Publishing column at ClickZ.com is about the skills that journalism schools need to teach their students to prepare them for this century. The advice in it is true for retraining professional journalists, too.

Multimedia Newspaper Professorship Opening at Syracuse

In case anyone reading this is interested, the Newspaper Department at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Syracuse University, seeks an experienced journalist with strong multimedia skills to join a department committed to preserving core journalistic competencies while teaching students to tell stories in online media. Work in the school’s new Collaborative Media Room, and teach many of our 400 undergraduate and graduate students in the Newspaper and Magazine print majors to deliver content interactively and using multiple media.

Qualifications: At least 10 years of experience in the news environment, with a strong reporting and writing resume and facility with still and video capture and editing and/or interactive and database reporting. You must submit a portfolio that demonstrates your hands-on storytelling talent for multiple platforms. Master’s or other advanced degree preferred. Tenure-track position at associate or assistant professor level. Previous teaching experience is not required, but you must show potential in the classroom.

Expect to teach traditional reporting and writing for print as well as for online delivery, and to also work with some of our broadcast professors and students. You should be able to play a significant role in our new visual storytelling class being prepared as a requirement for incoming freshmen in every one of our eight majors. The school is launching a content-managed, student-produced Web site in 2009, and it is a participant in the Carnegie-Knight News21 Initiative.

This is a tenure-track, nine-month appointment, with a requirement to teach five classes per year and to pursue a research-creative agenda — preferably related to manufacture and delivery of news and information online. The Newhouse School is committed to increasing the diversity of its faculty and especially welcomes applicants from underrepresented groups. Syracuse University is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.

Review of applications begins November 2008. Start: August 2009.

How to Apply: Candidates should visit http:www.sujobopps.com to read the detailed faculty postings and apply electronically. All positions require a cover letter, CV or resume and a list of four professional references. If you have any questions about the opening please contact Steve Davis, chair, Newspaper Department, at jsdavi02@syr.edu.

Vin Crosbie Takes A Partial Sabbatical

I’ve for many years now wanted to take a sabbatical after 11 years of consulting full-time about new media to news organizations. My wish has come true, at least part-time.

Starting on Monday, I’ll be in residence for the academic year as Adjunct Professor of Visual and Interactive Communications and Senior Consultant on Executive Education for New Media at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University.

On Wednesday, United States Chief Justice John Roberts will dedicate the Newhouse School’s new $32 million, 74,000-square-foot (6,874-square-meter) Newhouse III building, a facility which will be largely devoted to new media. My work at the Newhouse School will be to help its curriculum adjust to new-media; to create a guest speakers series year-long about new media; and to organize an executive education program in new media. Next Spring, I’ll also to teach courses there.

This opportunity to help a major school of journalism adapt to new media and best utilize its massive new facility for that purpose was too good for me to pass up.

(Forgive me but I’m also somewhat, perhaps perversely, proud about this appointment because I’m a high school graduate, without a college degree who has worked his way up the hard way. When in 1977 I started working in journalism, I was the high school kid amid few journeyman who hadn’t college degrees and many graduates who had. Today, I’m perhaps the last of the journeyman. My appointment is a salute to those old guys who trained me. Although I recommend to anyone completing college, I’m reluctantly glad to have nonetheless achieved a professorship despite lacking a degree myself. If I’ve achieved a professorship solely upon my lifetime’s experience, it is due to all the people I’ve worked with during my time. I wholeheartedly thank them.)

My arrangement with Syracuse University allows me to continue as managing partner of Digital Deliverance, although that will be the minority of my time. I’ve spent most of July and August finishing my consulting work for most of my clients (that’s really the reason why I haven’t often posted here or on Corante’s Rebuilding Media or have finished a treatise I’m writing.) While at Newhouse, I’ll continue to consult with my favorite clients and can accept a few new ones, although the majority of my work during these next 12 months will be for the university and the general good of new media journalism.&#151Vin Crosbie